Karapatan on recent NTF-ELCAC’s statements on abducted environmental activists, red-tagging

February 1, 2024

It is no surprise that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has welcomed the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recommendation to file grave oral defamation charges against environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro.

Obviously, the NTF-ELCAC could not live down the fact that Jhed and Jonila were able to turn the tables on their kidnappers and boldly speak the truth about their abduction. That Jhed and Jonila’s revelations were made in an NTF-ELCAC-organized press conference to present them as “surrenderees” makes the agency doubly furious for looking like chumps in their own game. The charges against Jhed and Jonila are ridiculous, baseless and patently vindictive.

Once again, the DOJ has arrogantly displayed its contempt for basic freedoms by timing the issuance of such an abominable decision during the visit of Ms. Irene Khan, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion.

The DOJ also exonerated the policemen involved in the March 2021 killing of Southern Tagalog union leader Manny Asuncion just days before a high-level mission from the International Labor Organization arrived in the Philippines in January 2023 to investigate grave cases of trade union repression.

With the cunningly timed issuances of these decisions, the DOJ, with exuberant applause from the NTF-ELCAC, virtually spat in the face of these representatives of international human rights bodies, pompously displaying the climate of impunity that shields them from accountability.

Karapatan likewise denounces recent statements by NTF-ELCAC officials denying its policy and practice of red- and terrorist-tagging. The brazen, systematic and widespread practice, affirmed as policy in NTF-ELCAC’s statements as well as the Marcos Jr. administration’s National Security Policy, has resulted in numerous forms of State violence and harm and has been cited as a context-specific death threat by UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor. It has likewise been reported to have impacts on civic and democratic space in the Philippines in the 2020 report of UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.

Karapatan also assailed National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya for claiming that all charges filed against NTF-ELCAC officials had been dismissed. Unless the NSC has inside information on the investigations or proceedings of the Ombudsman or the Supreme Court, all except two of the more than ten complaints filed at the Ombudsman are awaiting resolution. Supreme Court rulings on the petitions for review for the writs of amparo and habeas data filed during the Duterte administration, citing the dangers of red-tagging, also remain pending.

Karapatan condemns the DOJ and the NTF-ELCAC for their insufferable lies and despicable actions and pledges unflinching support for the Filipino people’s continuing fight for truth, justice and accountability.#